5/12/15. We had been thinking of cycling to Cape Reinga, the NZ equivalent of John o’Groats (i.e. it’s not actually the most northerly point but the one where everyone goes). However, it is 100 km from Awanui so it would take 2 or 3 days to cycle there and back plus a day for Christine to take her “nasty” pill …. and there was an alternative! The motel is a pickup point for a coach (actually a converted 4 wheel drive truck) trip which takes in Ninety Mile Beach, Cape Reinga and 3 or 4 other stops for the very reasonable price of $50 (£22) per person, including picnic lunch. We therefore took the decision to behave a bit more like normal tourists for the day!
From the motel we were driven to Waipapakauri Ramp where we had been the day before. It was more cloudy than Friday and there was a hint of rain in the air but it was still spectacular. After a 10 minute wander around on the sand the bus set off up the beach. We passed a few cars going the other way and a few trampers (NZ for hikers – apparently it is a popular 3 or 4 day walk) but otherwise it was miles of glorious sand, waves and seagulls. The beach is remarkably “clean” as there is little seaweed in the area and no large rivers to carry logs down to become driftwood. The bus was able to motor along at a fair lick – the speed limit is 90 kph but we were doing more like 60 except when slowing down to cross the small freshwater streams that occasionally flowed down from the dunes on our right.
After more than 70 km on the beach we reached the most northerly access point, Te Paki stream, where we turned off the beach and drove up the stream! By now the weather had changed to a much nicer and warmer sunshine. Before reaching the road proper we stopped beside some enormous sand dunes for another of the attractions of the trip – another example of the Kiwi creativity for dreaming up new extreme sports called sand tobogganing! This was not Christine’s cup of tea but Stephen had a great time pandering to his inner child. He managed to get himself soaked by failing to stop and going careering off across the shallow stream at the bottom.
The stop at Cape Reinga was a more sober affair. It has spiritual significance for the Maoris and so no eating or drinking is allowed. There are no tacky fast food joints or souvenir shops like John o’Groats and Lands End – and it is altogether more pleasant as a result. A short walk on a good surface took us to the lighthouse where we took the obligatory photos underneath the signpost (free unlike the extremities of Britain!). From here you look out over the place where the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean meet and the waves clash creating a very rough looking patch of water. Afterwards we headed off to a small beach nearby for the picnic lunch and then had stops at two very lovely spots on the east coast of the peninsula.